Fear of an increase in infectious diseases after Corona
Masks, distancing, frequent hand washing and disinfectants protect us from coronavirus infection, but also from other infectious diseases such as flu. However, our immune system does not have much to do and could become weaker, various scientists now fear. This is suggested, among other things, by a current study from Hong Kong. The researchers documented that after schools that had been closed for months were reopened, there was an explosive increase in infectious diseases.
A Chinese research team documented a dramatic increase in common upper respiratory tract infectious diseases shortly after children returned to schools and daycare in October 2020. The outbreaks affected both teachers and school children, even though strict corona protective measures were followed. The results were recently published in the specialist journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases” released.
Does our immune system soften in the COVID-19 bubble?
Common infections such as runny nose, flu-like infections and flu are part of normal everyday life. The COVID-19 protective measures have also given many of us a break from annoying colds. Chinese experts fear that this could take revenge once the measures are relaxed. In the doldrums, our immune system could have lost some of its defenses.
Wave of colds in schools
The current study shows that after the reopening of schools and day-care centers in Hong Kong in October 2020, despite prevailing protective measures, there was a significant increase in the number of colds. “The staff and students wore face masks at all times; the lunch break was canceled, the tables were kept at a distance and group activities were restricted, ”reports the research team.
Corona false positive in Hong Kong
Nevertheless, according to the study, there were 482 outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infections in schools and kindergartens by the end of November 2020: 308 in elementary schools, 149 in kindergartens and only 25 in secondary schools. In light of the widespread outbreaks, Hong Kong authorities again called for nationwide school closings from mid-November to late November, initially fearing an increase in coronavirus infections.
But when the germs were examined in the laboratory, the researchers found neither the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 nor influenza viruses. The outbreaks were caused by common rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, which are responsible for most flu-like infections and are usually well fended off by our immune system.
Did the lockdown weaken children’s immune systems?
The researchers hypothesized that the drastic increase in colds was due to the children’s immune responses being too weak to fight off the pathogens. The children were previously in home school from January to September 2020. Surveys have shown that around 75 percent of children had no contact with anyone outside the household.
At the same time, the researchers were able to understand that the number of colds and flu-like illnesses also fell sharply during the lockdown in Hong Kong. The immune system came into contact with these pathogens much less frequently, which means that “the susceptibility of the population to rhinoviruses and other respiratory viruses, including influenza viruses, may have increased over time,” the researchers conclude. For this reason, “the transmission potential increased when school operations were resumed,” the working group suspects.
There was also a wave of colds in England
Another study published in the renowned specialist journal “The Lancet“Was presented. A research team documented an increase in colds in the UK, despite prevailing COVID-19 measures, two weeks after the children returned to face-to-face classes in September 2020. Although the increase is normal at this time of year, there are usually no protective measures against infectious diseases. The researchers suspect that the corona measures are therefore not effective against rhinoviruses.
Not all viruses are created equal
Overall, both research teams support the hypothesis that the corona protective measures do not work well against cold germs such as rhinoviruses and enteroviruses. However, the measures seem to work better against influenza viruses and coronaviruses. Among other things, this could be due to the fact that enteroviruses and rhinoviruses cannot be killed off so easily by disinfectants.
Transmission routes need to be better investigated
It is interesting that the viruses mentioned here all use similar transmission routes. “How much each transmission path ultimately contributes to the spread of a virus remains unclear,” emphasize the researchers. As a result, the effectiveness of protective measures between viruses could also differ. (vb)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
Diploma-Editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Whui Fong, Nancy H.L. Leung, Benjamin J. Cowling, et al.: Upper Respiratory Infections in Schools and Childcare Centers Reopening after COVID-19 Dismissals, Hong Kong; in: Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2021, cdc.gov
- Stephen Poole, Nathan J Brendish, Alex R Tanner, et al.: Physical distancing in schools for SARS-CoV-2 and the resurgence of rhinovirus; The Lancet, 2020, thelancet.com
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.